Land Rover�s Freelander 2 is the most capable all-terrain compact SUV in the business bar none, and it just got better with the MY11 refresh.
Model tested: 2011 Land Rover Freelander 2 HSE SD4 & SE SD4: 2.2-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel, common rail fuel injection, six-speed auto: $65,854 & $56,810 (Manufacturer’s List Price)
Land Rover is on a roll, up 26 percent globally with a raft of new product promised over the next five years, and with a guaranteed investment of 6 billion pounds to make it all happen. If the brand delivers the numbers over that period, then the next round of investment from 2015 will be even larger.
Australia is in the good books too with Land Rover’s Indian parent Tata, pleased with the brand’s performance Down Under especially as it mirrored the global increase during fiscal year 2009/2010.
Land Rover Freelander 2 finished the year as the third biggest seller for Land Rover in Australia with 970 units sold. Discovery took the top spot with 1900 units, followed by Range Rover Sport, which found 1500 new homes. Land Rover Defender notched up a respectable 540 sales, while the flagship Range Rover Vogue managed 200 sales.
The next new Land Rover model to launch this year will be the much-anticipated Range Rover Evoque, which will arrive in Australia in October.
Land Rover’s Freelander 2 is the most capable all-terrain compact SUV in the business bar none, and it just got better with the MY11 refresh.
The last time we drove the Freelander 2 was in 2009 through some of the roughest and meanest terrain the Newnes State Forest (near Lithgow) could ever hope to dish up. We even brought a fully equipped Discovery 4 along for back up, but that proved to be unnecessary during the course of the day, as Freelander’s full-time four-wheel drive system with the Haldex rear axle differential is a remarkable bit of kit and proved unstoppable.
As the saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, but by all means improve it, I say. That’s exactly what Land Rover has done with the 2011 Freelander 2, which is essentially a mid-life refresh.
While there are some subtle styling changes to the grille and tailgate areas, which serve entirely to enhance the Freelander's on road presence and prestige image, it’s under the bonnet where you’ll find the biggest change.
There’s an all-new 2.2-litre diesel powertrain, which is not only quieter and more refined than the previous engine, but develops more power and torque. It also consumes less fuel and produces fewer CO2 emissions.
Although it’s pretty much an all-diesel affair with Freelander 2 these days, with five out seven variants using the new diesel powertrain, you can still get the 3.2-litre straight-six, which has now been calibrated to meet EU5 emissions standards.
The XSi6 and SEi6 petrol variants are also the quickest of the Freelander fleet, accelerating from 0-100km/h in just 8.9 seconds with a top speed of 200km/h.
Freelander 2 buyers can choose between two diesel engine tunes: the 110kW direct-injection TD4, or the 140kW SD4. While the power output varies between the two units, both derivatives now develop 420Nm of torque, a 20Nm increase over the outgoing model.
Can you feel the extra power and torque? Yes, but it’s more evident during mid-range acceleration (there’s a tonne of that) than from standing starts.
The component largely responsible for the increased output is a newly developed variable geometry turbocharger now water-cooled, enabling higher temperatures and the resulting lower emissions.
The biggest issue we had with the previous Freelander 2 was its propensity for irritating diesel clatter, particularly at idle. While that characteristic hasn’t been completely cured, it’s a lot more muffled at idle, and considerably less so at anything above 1500rpm.
On the tarmac, the new Freelander cruises effortlessly at the 110km/h national speed limit and has plenty of mid range punch for high-speed overtakes. It’s even better on steep uphill passes, where the additional torque gets this vehicle moving rather quickly. While the 0-100km/h sprint is over in 9.5 seconds (11.4 for the TD4), top speed increases to 190km/h for the SD4, and is unchanged at 181km/h for the TD4 powered variants.
There’s minimal road noise from the 19-inch wheel and tyre package, although wind noise from the entirely practical but oversize door mirrors is noticeable at 100km/h.
Although there’s a Getrag six-speed manual box with stop/start technology available in the entry-level Freelander 2, the overwhelming majority of Australian buyers are expected to choose the super smooth six-speed auto transmission, which offers seamless shifts through all gear ratios. Land Rover has further refined this unit by reducing its overall weight for faster shifting. That’s especially noticeable when using the command shift (manual sequential shift) mode for improved performance over twisty uphill terrain.
At 1805 kilograms, the Freelander 2 is no lightweight, but its ability to corner without body roll and with car-like characteristics is surprising. It’s a comfortable ride too, with plenty of compliance from the independent suspension set-up to iron out the potholes.
Like many car manufacturers these days, Land Rover is working hard to reduce fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions. Thankfully, the Freelander 2 delivers on both counts despite the increased output. The 140kW version can deliver 5.7 litres/100km during extended highway cruising, whereas, during a combined cycle run, expect 7.0 litres/100km with CO2 emissions falling to 185g/km. Freelander diesel owners don’t need to worry about the possibility of inadvertently filling up with petrol either, as they have been fitted with a fuel tank mis-fuelling device to prevent such a catastrophe.
And while it may be the ‘baby’ of Land Rover’s model range, it’s nothing less than a premium feel inside Freelander’s cabin. The standard fit Napoli leather upholstery is of high grade and thick enough to withstand abuse from those with young children. The leather extends to the door trim and to those superb Range Rover style armrests.
Buyers can also option the extra soft Windsor Leather in several colours as part of the Premium Luxury Pack, which also adds 6/8 way electrically adjustable seats, plush carpet mats and covered centre console box and importantly, sits under the Luxury Car Tax (LCT) threshold.
Unique to Freelander 2 is its consistently boxy design that ensures its position as the most spacious of all compact SUVs is retained. There’s plenty of leg, head and elbowroom in either seat row, while the rear seat stadium seating means passengers have a clean forward view. All round vision is as good as gets, with noticeably narrow A-pillars and Freelander’s low beltline, allowing for a larger than normal glass area.
Part of what makes the Freelander 2 such a standout proposition in this segment is what Land Rover calls the ‘Command Position’, and credit where credit is due, there is no better driving position in the SUV business. It’s actually quite deceptive as Freelander doesn’t look as though it rides any higher than any other vehicles in this class, despite its exceptional wading depth of 500mm. Behind the wheel though, you are seemingly perched high above the traffic in front of you, with a thoroughly commanding view of the road ahead.
It’s not often I feel compelled to shower praise on a steering wheel, but the leather bound tiller in the Freelander 2 is a driver’s treat with its particularly tactile feel providing superior grip. It’s just the steering weight I’m not overly fond of. Too much assistance at speed, although I doubt city-based owners will complain.
There’s plenty of the usual luxury kit on board too, although, disappointingly, there’s no Bluetooth streaming for MP3 players despite Bluetooth connectivity for compatible phones. Another omission from the standard kit, and indeed the options list is a rear camera system, which I would have thought essential for such a premium offering. That said all new Freelanders come with rear park assist, while the HSE also gets front mounted parking sensors.
Satellite Navigation is standard on the Top spec HSE models, but all lower spec models make do with a locally fitted Garmin touch screen unit, which has been properly installed in the dash. It works well enough, and is certainly more convenient than lugging around a portable unit.
Safety on board the latest Freelander 2 is well catered for too with a total of seven airbags including a driver’s knee airbag. Additionally, the transverse engine mounting, which allows for better crash protection is a contributing factor towards its five-star Euro NCAP rating for adult occupant protection.
As you can imagine with such an upright design, luggage capacity inside the Freelander 2 is considerable. With the rear seats upright, available load space is 755 litres and when folded, this increases to almost 1700 litres. Moreover the aperture is enormous and the load height is near perfect. Under the rear floor, you'll also find a full size spare wheel.
While the changes to the latest Freelander 2 are indeed subtle from an exterior perspective, Land Rover’s new diesel engine is a standout unit, which has made a good thing even better.
MY11 Freelander 2 model line-up: Recommended Retail Pricing:
TD4 (Man): $44,990 XS I6: $49,990 XS TD4: $52,790 SE I6: $52,510 SE TD4: $55,310 SE SD4: $56,810 HSE SD4: $65,854
MY11 Freelander 2 Technical specifications
|TD4 110kW manual 4WD||TD4 110kW auto 4WD||SD4 140kW auto 4WD|
|Turning Circle (m)||11.3||11.3||11.3|
|Min Weight from (kg)||1785||1805||1805|
|Front suspension||Macpherson strut with lower control arm and anti-roll bar||Macpherson strut with lower control arm and anti-roll bar||Macpherson strut with lower control arm and anti-roll bar|
|Rear suspension||Strut assembly with lateral and longitudinal links and anti-roll bar||Strut assembly with lateral and longitudinal links and anti-roll bar||Strut assembly with lateral and longitudinal links and anti-roll bar|
|Brakes Front||Ventilated front disc - 300mm, solid rear – 302mm||Ventilated front disc - 300mm, solid rear – 302mm||Ventilated front disc - 300mm, solid rear – 302mm|
|Steering||Hydraulic power assisted rack and pinion||Hydraulic power assisted rack and pinion||Hydraulic power assisted rack and pinion|
|Four-Wheel Drive system||Full time 4 wheel drive with Haldex rear axle differential.||Full time 4 wheel drive with Haldex rear axle differential.||Full time 4 wheel drive with Haldex rear axle differential.|
|Engine type||Transverse, in-line 4-cylinder, 16-valve turbo diesel, common rail fuel injection||Transverse, in-line 4-cylinder, 16-valve turbo diesel, common rail fuel injection||Transverse, in-line 4cylinder, 16-valve turbo diesel, common rail fuel injection|
|Max power (kW)||110||110||140|
|Max Torque (Nm)||420||420||420|
|Fuel consumption EU urban/extra urban/combined (l/100km)||(7.9/5.8/6.6)||(8.7/5.7/7.0)||(8.7/5.7/7.0)|
|Transmission||M66 EH50 6-speed manual||Aisin SWF21 6 Speed auto||Aisin SWF21 6 Speed auto|
|Fuel tank capacity (litres)||68||68||68|
|Top speed km/h||181||181||190|